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The Worst of Friends: Malcolm Allison, Joe Mercer and Manchester City Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009
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"Shindler is an ardent City fan, and his inside knowledge of the club gives the words he puts into his characters' mouths a ring of truth" (Book of the Week Independent on Sunday)
"A damned good read . . . compelling stuff" (Daily Telegraph)
"Highly readable and passionately told . . .Shindler constructs a diligently composed collage [and] knows his subject inside out" (The Observer)
The eventful story of Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer's brief-but-glorious partnershipSee all Product description
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Mr Shindler is clearly trying to emulate David Peace's "faction" style, and he could hardly have chosen a better story to tell, especially for Manchester City supporters (like me) of a similar vintage to the author. For Cloughie's 44 days at Leeds read Mercer and Allison's seven years at City. Unfortunately, Mr Shindler's writing style does not seem suited to this type of book. So many of the supposed conversations just don't ring true, especially when the author feels the need to include profanities to make the dialogue more "realistic". Much of this seems forced and contrived, and some of the supposed conversations border on the cringeworthy. You just could never imagine them taking place. It's as if the author is trying to simulate how working class people speak, without ever having experienced it himself.
Also, he feels the need to include minute and irrelevant details into the text and this, together with an over-wordy writing style, really slows the pace of the book down and at times, sacrilege for a story about two such great characters, the book actually becomes a bit boring.
I wouldn't call it a bad book, but its merits lie solely in the fact that the basic story of Joe and Malcolm is such a great one, rather than the way in which the author has related the tale. Mr Shindler is certainly no David Peace. Indeed, Steve Mingle's excellent Allison Wonderland, which tells the story of the same era but mainly from Malcolm Allison's perspective, is far more entertaining and believable than this rather disappointing effort.
In my view, the weaknesses of the book were the 2 dimensional nature of the Mercer character, you don't succeed in sport by being a dithering doormat, and the failure to explore why it all went wrong for Allison when Mercer left.
Nevertheless, a great read for football nostalgistas, like most books of this ilk it shows the Premier League for what it is, a self important shadow of what football is really about.
This was City's most exciting period in it's history and yet there's no sense at all of what this meant to the fans. A strange omission considering the author made his name with Manchester United Ruined My Life a book entirely about being a City fan. Whilst well researched he also insists on using the results of his research regardless of whether it adds anything to the book or not. Do we really need to know that Stan Cullis, who appears only once, was the only manager at the time who didn't swear?
Other than for City completists it's best avoided.
David Peace's Cloughie book. It's written in the narrative style of a novel and yet, knowing the Mercer-Allison story as all 60's/70's football fans do, it never once strikes a false note. It reads as a kind of football tragedy with both main characters able to touch upon genius while possessing flaws that always threaten the very qualities that, as a team, made them great. In this sense the limited Mercer is the genial uncle figure; Allison desperately needs to reign in an ego that, otherwise, would spiral out of control. Allison of course being the forward-thinkning tactical genius English football should have embraced at a time when clogging was seen as the norm. The story itself has been documented many times but never with as much feeling of tragedy and loss as Shindler does here. Towards the end the third person narrator merges with what clearly is his own voice of despair and resignation: a climax with some feeling!
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